Bawah Reserve is an island paradise playground comprising of six idyllic private islands that are secludedly located in the Anambas regional archipelago of Indonesia with a total landmass of over 300 hectares that consists of three azure lagoons, thirteen soft white sand beaches and several mangrove swamps. Situated just approximately 150 nautical miles northeast from Singapore, Bawah is so isolated and remote that it is only accessible via a one and a half hour private twin-engine seaplane ride that departs from the Hang Nadim airport in Batam, Indonesia. The entire island resort accommodates a maximum of seventy guests at any single time that are housed in thirty-five villa style suites (3 Garden suite, 21 beachfront suite and 11 overwater bungalows) which are spaced out across the front of the main island. Each suite comes with your very own butler who is at your beck and call should you require any assistance or have any specific needs.
One of the overwater bungalows at Bawah Reserve
Couples and families alike come to Bawah seeking out peace and quiet, and to unwind in complete solitude. The entire island retreat feels fairly deserted most of the time, according weary travellers their much desired privacy and respite. The only sounds you hear during your vacation come from the tranquil waves and the distant hum of the propeller engines of the seaplane as it lands and takes off twice per day to ferry the guests to and from the island.
A thoughtful and welcomed personal touch that got me shrieking with delight and amusement was to see wooden panel signboards with our names artistically plastered from grains of sand that hung at the entrance to our spacious overwater bungalow suite. We even got to keep and bring home these panels as special souvenirs and personalised mementos of our stay. All suites are well equipped with everything that you might require – such as insect repellent, snorkelling equipment, stylish ponchos, straw beach tote bags and sun hats – so as to make your stay as comfortable as possible. There are no televisions and satellite internet connectivity is limited, which ensures that guests slow down their pace and fully immerse in the Bawah islander experience.
Bawah Reserve is home to spectacular coral reefs and several species of marine creatures such as butterfly fish, sea turtles, parrotfish, squid, jellyfish, and small harmless sharks. Snorkelling excursions, scuba dives and catamaran sailing trips around the islands allow guests and their families a keen sense and appreciation of the myriad of living corals and local marine life. While kayaking in a see-through bottom kayak, I even got to witness a pair of flying fish majestically leaping out of the waters and then elegantly gliding a good distance before gracefully submerging back into the placid sea. Paddling on top of sleek wooden paddleboards are a fun way to explore the untouched mangrove swamps and undamaged coral reefs set around pristine crystal clear waters consisting iridescent shades of turquoise, teal, azure and aquamarine. A thick and dense jungle canopy of coconut and palm trees surround these sparkling lagoons and mangrove coves that play hosts to a plethora of striking and captivating wildlife such as birds, lizards, insects, starfish, and cute miniature crabs.
Have a romantic sunset dinner on the beach as prepared by the chefs
Bawah’s experienced chefs hail from all around the world and pride themselves in crafting the most delectable and aesthetically pleasing cuisine and beverage concoctions with professional aplomb and utmost flair. In order to maintain freshness, all the executive chefs and kitchen hands work tirelessly around the clock to cook and prepare bespoke culinary meals on-demand to satiate the appetites of resort guests who are absolutely spoilt for choice with the extensive customisable menu.
The waters are so clear that you can see the corals from above
Local produce and seafoods are brought in daily to complement what is already organically grown on Bawah’s farms and fertile volcanic soils. The crunchy and scrumptious signature salads tossed with leafy greens, sliced fruits, chopped nuts, topped with your choice of eat protein and then splashed with light balsamic vinaigrette dressing were some of the best salads that I ever tasted. Immaculate blue crab tartare and sizzling grilled seafood that are seasoned with exotic Indonesian spices and garnished with herbs grown and harvested on site are also to die for. For a romantic sunset dining experience, a picnic or candle-lit al fresco dinner table setting on the beach can also be organised and prepared beforehand for your enjoyment.
Enjoy the view of the sea from the balcony
Guests at the resort get to indulge in as many massages, facials, and spa treatments as they like during their stay so long as there is room availability. At the end of each rejuvenating session at the cozy Aura Spa, the masseurs make light casual banter before serving you with some freshly brewed Indonesian Jamu, which is a spicy and tasty speciality health elixir tonic drink made from clove, star anise, cinnamon, turmeric, lemongrass, royal jelly, raw honey and other detoxifying herbal ingredients with medicinal properties that washes through your system in waves of fuzzy comfort so as to perk you right back up. The warm and delicious cup of lovingly made Jamu served with a sweet smile was a simple pleasure that I remembered fondly, and is hands down the perfect heavenly treat to nourish and revitalise the senses right after a relaxing spa treatment.
The head concierge told me that the majority of visitors merely wish to rest and relax, taking it easy throughout the duration of their stay. As such, most guests and even some of the full-time staff do not make the fairly arduous hike to trek uphill through the three designated forested nature trails over at the largest main island of Bawah. Personally, I would highly recommend doing these hikes through the forested hills as you will be well rewarded with a good cardiovascular work out, as well as breath-taking panoramic views of the entire resort, spotless beaches, untainted lagoons, thriving coral reefs, mangrove swamps and surrounding islands. From the higher vantage points at the peak of the hilltops, you will encounter complete and utter silence. Not a single audible sound. One then deeply realises that the chief reason for coming to Bawah is really to savour complete seclusion and isolation from the mad rush of city life. To make the trip over to Bawah Reserve is to be deliberately far removed from the hustle and bustle of urban living, and have the rare opportunity to stargaze on clear night skies.
The beautiful and pristine beach where one can sunbathe or enjoy a picnic
Bawah took an entire construction team a total of six years to engineer and build by hand using natural materials such as coconut, stone, teak wood, bamboo, etc. No heavy machinery were being used so as not to damage the natural landscape and surrounding coral reefs. The resort management are fully committed to environmental and oceanic conservation. The owners are so serious about the social economical impact of operating the resort on the environment that they created the “Bawah Project” with the chief aim of integrating and educating the local communities and neighbouring fishing villages, so as to arm them with the knowledge and resources to protect and preserve the surrounding waters and environs.
Bawah Project development advisor Jerry Winata spearheads and oversees the resort’s eco-conservation and waste management initiatives with his dedicated team of savvy eco-aficionados who work closely with the Anambas archipelago natives so as to ensure maximum environmental sustainability. All these strategised arrangements make Bawah Reserve a true bona fide destination for even the most demanding and discerning of eco-travellers.
The all-inclusive flat fee package includes door-to-door round trip transfers in luxurious comfort from Singapore, three daily meals (breakfast, lunch, and à la carte dinner), pampering spa facials and massage treatments, yoga/pilates classes, water sport activities, and free flowing in-room mini bar that is amply stocked up with soft drinks, juices, homemade cookies, nuts and snacks. There are no hidden costs to deal with when you check out. The only two things that you would have to pay for are the optional scuba diving sessions, as well as for any alcoholic beverage consumption. The fact that I am already planning my return trip and cannot wait to go back to Bawah is a testimony to the retreat’s unsurpassed quality and hospitality.
For bookings, please kindly email Mr Jeffrey O’Neill at [email protected].
Contributed by Luke Elijah, Spiritual Coach.
Photo credits: Luke Elijah